ACM Digital Library

Communications of the ACM
Volume 48, Number 6 (2005), Pages 27-28
President's letter: Do you Queue?
David A. Patterson

Table of Contents

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Created for computing professionals, Queue is an innovative, successful magazine available free to ACM members. If you are a professional and don't subscribe, what are you waiting for?

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ACM recently surveyed is members, and found that 61% were professionals/managers and 32% were academic/educators/researchers. Clearly, both the science and profession of computing matter to ACM members. Our new motto is:

"ACM and its members advance computing as a science and as a profession."

Given this duality, the Association has long tried to provide services for both the science and the profession. Computer science has received the most attention, and so ACM Council just spent a beautiful spring weekend inside a Portland hotel brainstorming on how to better serve its professional membership. You'll see the results in a series of new initiatives for professionals (watch this space), but there are valuable services currently available that some professionals are not using, perhaps because they're not aware those resources exist.

Queue, for example.

ACM launched this new magazine for professionals in 2003. It has a different editorial orientation than other magazines aimed at the computing profession. First, rather than present supposed solutions, as is conventional, Queue describes problems. More importantly, as opposed to talking about the "here-and-now," it tries to help decision makers plan future projects by examining the challenges and problems they are most likely to face in the next year or two.

How could a magazine accurately predict the future? The solution was to attract an all-star advisory board of senior industrial luminaries and rising young stars to guide the content of the magazine. Queue's Editorial Advisory Board lists:

I've known and respected many of the professionals on this board for decades; and it's a testament to Queue's success that these very busy people are willing to help.

But they are much more than venerable names on a masthead. The entire board meets every month for a long meeting, which I've attended. They'll also invite outside experts to help flesh out editorial ideas. Meetings start with wide-ranging discussions of problems for future issues, and later drill down to specific topics for articles and the best authors to tackle them. Table 1 lists the board's topic selections from recent and upcoming issues of Queue.

My favorite monthly feature is the in-depth interview. You get to hear the inside story from the pioneers, what happened when the first products hit the market, and their view of future direction. Apparently, I am not the only one who loves them, for two of the top five Queue downloads are interviews (see Table 2.)

Since Queue is an unconventional magazine, it was not obvious how to evaluate its success. Its founders decided upfront to use coverage by Slashdot ( as a test of whether they were hitting their intended market. By this difficult measure, Queue is an overwhelming success. Slashdot covers Queue articles almost every month. (For readers unfamiliar with Slashdot, it's a Web site subtitled "News for Nerds." It gets 2,500,000 page views per day and is likely the most popular Web site for computing professionals. It even has its own verb: being "Slashdotted" means your article was the object of discussion on

Another indication of success is the popularity of the Queue Web site. The accompanying figure indicates the rapid increase in the number of unique visitors per month to the site from March 2003 to March 2005.

A third measure of the relevance of Queue's articles comes from our clipping service for ACM publications from the second half of 2004. Only two ACM articles were quoted in the major media, and both were from Queue [2, 3]. The stature of the publications that cited Queue is equally impressive: Business Week [4] and The Economist [1]. This record suggests that influential reporters of IT have started to read Queue.

Although an editorial success, it took a little while to make it a financial success. Queue moved from a subscription-based model, where subscribers largely pay the bills, to a qualified reader model, where advertising covers the cost of Queue, based on having the right number and type of readers.

To subscribe to Queue, you simply go to, click on "free subscription" in the upper left corner, and fill out the application. You also must check the seemingly redundant box that you want to subscribe—as opposed to just filling out the form for fun—as this acts as your signature on this online application.

ACM has about 60,000 regular members and about 36,000 members are professionals, according to the previously mentioned survey. Queue currently has about 17,000 ACM members as subscribers. Hence, almost 20,000 ACM members whom I believe would benefit directly from Queue don't yet subscribe. (And many researchers and educators might enjoy it too, as I do!)

Since it's excellent, enhances your career, and is free; what are you waiting for?

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1. The Economist. Measuring complexity. (Nov. 25, 2004).

2. LaPlante, P.A., and Neill, C.J. `The demise of the Waterfall model is imminent' and other urban myths. ACM Queue 1, 10 (Feb. 2004).

3. Michaelson, J. There is no such thing as a free (software) lunch. ACM Queue 2, 3 (May 2004).

4. Wildstrom, S.H. A big fly in the open-source soup. Business Week (Aug. 13, 2004).

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David A. Patterson ( is president of the ACM and the Pardee Professor of Computer Science at the University of California at Berkeley.

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UF1Figure. Tracking the increase of unique visitors per month to Queue's Web site.

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T1Table 1. A sampling of topics Queue has—and is planning to—examine.

T2Table 2. The top five downloads of Queue articles.

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